In January 2021, Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection submitted a document of guidelines for the preparation of an emergency plan to deal with possible Europe Asia Pipeline Company oil pollution incidents in its terminal in Eilat. The guidelines were designed at the request of the EAPC (Katza in Hebrew), to enable the company to examine risks to the marine environment in Eilat and increase their readiness to match the projected sharp increase in the number of tankers to start arriving from the United Arab Emirates at the Eilat harbor.
On Sunday, the Director of the National Marine Protection Unit of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Rani Amir, issued a letter to the EAPC stating that the ministry rejects all the conclusions of the risk survey the company submitted.
The risk survey is the fundamental phase before any redeployment plan is approved for the Eilat harbor. But according to the ministry’s letter, Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg has instructed the National Unit for the Protection of the Marine Environment not to continue processing and examining any documents submitted by the EAPC pending a debate in the cabinet to determine the future implementation of the agreement signed by the pipeline company to increase the scope of activity at the oil tanker terminal in Eilat harbor.
Minister of Environmental Protection Zandberg issued a press release saying: “I am leading to setting a strategic discussion in the government regarding the necessity of the agreement whose contribution to the Israeli economy is doubtful, while, on the other hand, it dramatically endangers the northernmost coral reef in the world and all of Eilat’s tourism industry.”
According to Israel Hayom on Monday, an official in Abu Dhabi warned of a diplomatic crisis that could cloud relations between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, as a result of Zandberg’s at least temporarily killing the pipeline deal. Under the agreement, the emirates were going to transport their oil to Europe and the rest of the Western world through the EAPC infrastructure, significantly cutting the cost of shipping.
The same UAE officials told Israel Hayom that the annulment of an agreement of such magnitude constitutes “a complete violation of all the reciprocal economic annexes signed under the Abrahamic Agreements.”
Who bet “the Abrahamic deal dead in one year?”
The officials warned that “companies from the Emirates will think twice whether to do business with governmental companies in Israel when they know there’s a reasonable possibility that the signed agreement would be revoked. We don’t interfere in the internal affairs and political issues of other countries, but it’s clear to us that this is a move to cancel the agreement due to political considerations.”
Maybe. But the idea of multiplying to a very large extent the amount of crude oil being pushed through the pipeline from Eilat to the Ashkelon terminal is dizzying, even if you’re not a huge fan of marine life and coral reefs. The pipeline would certainly attract terrorists, eager to blow up this symbol of normalization of the relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The Egyptian gas line in the northern Sinai is regularly blown up – and few civilian enclaves suffer the environmental consequences. Israel would be compelled to assign the security of the pipeline to the already overburdened IDF, which has another gig protecting the natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean. Does Israel need this headache?
Incidentally, the initial decision to kill the pipeline deal with the emirates belonged to Zandberg’s predecessor, Gila Gamliel (Likud). She looked at the survey results and decided the risk was too high.
Finally, another senior UAE official told Israel Hayom that Abu Dhabi does not intend to give up, and if necessary they would go to an international legal tribunal. “It’s still too early to draw conclusions, we will talk to those we need to in Israel to understand the implications of the decision to cancel the agreement,” he said, and added, “We invested a lot of work and millions of dollars in the planning stage not to give up so quickly. We will study the decision and act accordingly,” he said.